[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 195 (Friday, October 8, 1999)]
[Pages 54924-54925]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-26301]



[Docket Nos. 50-413, 50-414 and 50-370]

Duke Energy Corporation et al. (Catawba Nuclear Station, Units 1 
and 2) (McGuire Nuclear Station, Unit 2); Exemption


    Duke Energy Corporation et al. (the licensee, Duke) is the holder 
of Facility Operating License Nos. NPF-35 and NPF-52, for the Catawba 
Nuclear Station (CNS), Units 1 and 2, and NPF-9 and NPF-17, for the 
McGuire Nuclear Station (MNS), Units 1 and 2. The licenses provide, 
among other things, that the licensee is subject to all rules, 
regulations, and orders of the Commission now or hereafter in effect.
    Each of these facilities consists of two pressurized water reactor 
units located at the licensee's Catawba site in York County, South 
Carolina, and McGuire site in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.


    Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR), Part 54, 
addresses the various requirements for renewal of operating licenses 
for nuclear power plants. Section 54.17(c) of Part 54 specifies:

    An application for a renewed license may not be submitted to the 
Commission earlier than 20 years before the expiration of the 
operating license currently in effect.

Pursuant to 10 CFR 54.15, the Commission may grant an exemption from 
the requirements of 10 CFR Part 54 in accordance with the provisions of 
10 CFR 50.12, which in turn specifies that the exemption is authorized 
by law, will not present an undue risk to the public health and safety, 
and is consistent with the common defense and security. The Commission 
will not consider granting an exemption unless special circumstances 
are present. Special circumstances are considered to be present under 
Section 50.12(a)(2)(ii) where application of the regulation would not 
serve the underlying purpose of the rule or is not necessary to achieve 
the underlying purpose of the rule.


    By letter dated June 22, 1999, the licensee requested an exemption 
from 10 CFR 54.17(c) for McGuire, Unit 2, and Catawba, Units 1 and 2.
    In initially promulgating Section 54.17(c) in 1991, the Commission 
stated that the purpose of the time limit was ``to ensure that 
substantial operating experience is accumulated by a licensee before it 
submits a renewal application'' (56 FR 64963). At that time, the 
Commission found that 20 years of operating experience provided a 
sufficient basis for renewal applications. However, in issuing the 
amended Part 54 in 1995, the Commission indicated it would consider an 
exemption to this requirement if sufficient information was available 
on a plant-specific basis to justify submission of an application to 
renew a license before completion of 20 years of operation (60 FR 
    The 20-year limit was imposed by the Commission to ensure that 
sufficient operating experience was accumulated to identify any plant-
specific aging concerns. As set forth below, McGuire, Unit 2, and both 
Catawba units are sufficiently similar to McGuire, Unit 1, such that 
the operating experience for McGuire, Unit 1, should apply to the other 
three units. In addition, the other three units have accumulated 
significant operating experience. Accordingly, under the requested 
exemption, sufficient operating experience will have been accumulated 
to identify any plant-specific aging concerns for all four units.
    McGuire and Catawba are two-unit stations comprised of four-loop 
Westinghouse pressurized water reactors with ice-condenser containments 
and a rated power of 3411 megawatts. The licensee states that it will 
use the combined experience it has gained by operation of the McGuire 
and Catawba units to perform the evaluations required to support the 
license renewal applications. The licensee also states that the two 
McGuire units and the two Catawba units are similar in design, 
operation, and maintenance. This statement is supported by a review of 
the McGuire and Catawba Updated Final Safety Analysis Reports (UFSARs). 
In particular, Section 1.3 of the Catawba UFSAR describes the 
similarities in design between McGuire and Catawba. Table 1-2 of the 
Catawba UFSAR lists significant similarities between systems, 
structures, and components installed at Catawba and McGuire, including 
elements of the reactor system, the reactor coolant system, the 
engineered safety features, and the auxiliary systems. Additionally, 
Duke indicates that the current aging management programs and 
activities are also similar at each of the four units.
    The licensee also stated that there are ``regular and systematic 
exchanges of information on plant-specific operating experience among 
all three Duke nuclear stations'' (McGuire, Catawba, and Oconee). An 
example provided was peer communications that occurred on an ongoing 
basis during the normal course of operation and maintenance of the 
units. Additionally, during certain infrequent occurrences at any one 
station, peer observers from the other Duke plants participate to gain 
firsthand experience and to provide input based on their own 
experiences. These communications provide the means to continually 
improve plant programs. Additionally, peer group meetings are held 
regularly throughout the year to discuss topics of mutual interest. The 
effectiveness of programs and activities is reviewed, and program 
changes are often discussed. This sharing of plant-specific operating 
experience among the Duke nuclear stations is part of Duke's normal 
process to maintain the effectiveness of plant programs and activities 
and to continually improve the performance of Duke's nuclear stations.
    Given these similarities, the operating experience at McGuire, Unit 
1, should be applicable to McGuire, Unit 2, and also to the Catawba 
units for purposes of the license renewal review. At the earliest date 
for submitting an application, McGuire, Unit 1, will have achieved the 
required 20 years of operation and its operating experience will be 
applicable to Unit 2 which will have almost met the 20-year requirement 
with 18.3 years of operating experience. At this time, the Catawba 
units will have operated for a substantial period of time 
(approximately 16.5 years for Unit 1 and 15.3 years for Unit 2) which 
provides additional plant-specific operating experience to supplement 
the McGuire operating experience. The actual twenty

[[Page 54925]]

years of operating experience of McGuire Unit 1, in conjunction with 
the substantial number of years of operation of the other three units, 
should be sufficient to identify any aging concerns applicable to the 
four units.
    Therefore, sufficient combined operating experience should exist at 
the earliest possible date for submittal to satisfy the intent of 
Section 54.17(c), and application of the regulation in this case is not 
necessary to achieve the underlying purpose of the rule. The staff 
finds that Duke's request meets the requirement in Section 50.12(a)(2) 
that special circumstances exist to grant the exemption.


    Accordingly, the Commission has determined that special 
circumstances are present as defined in 10 CFR 50.12(a)(2)(ii). As 
stated in Section III above, the staff finds that the combined 
operating experience of the four McGuire and Catawba units would 
satisfy the intent of Section 54.17 at the earliest possible date for 
submittal of concurrent applications (June 13, 2001), and application 
of the regulation in this case is not necessary to achieve the 
underlying purpose of the rule. The Commission hereby grants the 
licensee an exemption from the requirement of 10 CFR 54.17(c). 
Specifically, this exemption removes the scheduler requirement which 
prohibits the licensee from applying to the Commission for a renewed 
license earlier than 20 years (but no earlier than June 13, 2001), 
before the expiration of the Catawba, Units 1 and 2 and McGuire, Unit 
2, operating licenses currently in effect.
    Pursuant to 10 CFR 51.32, the Commission has determined that 
granting of this exemption will have no significant effect on the 
quality of the human environment (64 FR 52802 and 64 FR 52803).
    This exemption is effective upon issuance.

    Dated at Rockville, Maryland, this 1st day of October 1999.

    For the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
John A. Zwolinski,
Director, Division of Licensing Project Management, Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation.
[FR Doc. 99-26301 Filed 10-7-99; 8:45 am]